Tech To Assess Mineral Assets On Federal Land
New Mexico Tech to Assess the Value of Federal Minerals That Could Support Early Childhood Education
PRRC, Bureau of Geology To Complete Statewide Survey
SOCORRO, N.M. – The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech) has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the State Land Office to assess the value of about 6.6 million acres of unleased federal mineral estate land in New Mexico. The mineral rights could potentially support early childhood education in New Mexico, according to State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.
The MOU is part of the commissioner’s process to determine the feasibility of assuming ownership and management of the unleased federal split estate minerals. The surface estate is privately-owned. Scientists from the Petroleum Recovery Research Center and the N.M. Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources – both divisions of New Mexico Tech – will collaborate on the project. Tech is expected to deliver its final report by March 15, 2017.
Martha Cather of New Mexico Tech’s Petroleum Recovery Research Center is the principal investigator on this project. A team from the Bureau will assist Cather, including Ron Broadhead, who will focus on oil and gas data. Broadhead will provide information on helium and CO2 surveys. Virginia McLemore will focus on all other commodities. Bureau G.I.S. specialist Mark Mansell will assist with the final report.
The State Land Office has identified land in New Mexico that is split-estate – privately owned surface rights, with federally-owned mineral rights. Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation are spearheading the effort to transfer the federal mineral estate to the state.
Cather said this project both fulfills the service component of the two divisions’ mission and also taps on the expertise at the Bureau and the PRRC.
“Bureau of Geology scientists are the experts on underground minerals in the state,” Cather said. “And the Bureau and the PRRC have both participated in oil and gas surveys of New Mexico. This is a high-level report; we are doing this as a broad-brush 60,000 foot view of the state. It’s a nice project for the PRRC and the Bureau. This is another example where we can provide them a service and do an outside evaluation.”
Cather said much of the final report will be a conglomeration of data gathered for various other projects. She will re-examine previous data sources and combine it into one report.
The “Early Childhood Education Land Grant Act,” which Commissioner Dunn is pitching to the Legislature, would create the Early Childhood Education Land Grant Permanent Fund and the Early Childhood Education Land Grant Income Fund. Revenue earned from the federal mineral estate would be paid into the Early Childhood Education Land Grant Permanent Fund, however, the federal government would receive 50 percent of the revenue earned for the first 10 years.
“New Mexico doesn’t have the resources to implement early childhood education programs,” Dunn said. “The revenue earned by leasing these minerals could potentially provide hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in our kids.”
New Mexico Tech is one of 22 beneficiaries that receive income from the trust that Commissioner Dunn and the State Land Office manage. Since Commissioner Dunn took office in 2015, New Mexico Tech has earned more than $3.2 million from the Land Grant Permanent Fund and Land Maintenance Fund distributions to augment its operating budget.
Revenues earned from non-renewable resources, such as oil, gas, and mineral royalties and land sale proceeds, are paid into the Land Grant Permanent Fund. The State Investment Council invests the corpus of the fund and the beneficiaries are paid 5.5 percent of the five-year average market value of the fund.
Revenues earned from renewable resources, such as lease payments, rights-of-way, and interest, are paid into the Land Maintenance Fund, 26 percent of which covers State Land Office operating expenses, while 74 percent is distributed to the beneficiaries.
The State Land Office currently manages 9 million acres of surface estate and 13 million mineral acres held in trust to support public schools, seven universities, three hospitals, correctional facilities and other programs and services.
– NMT –